Category: thinking

A weekly service?

sunday-schedule
Do we do church too often?

Recently I was thinking about why I really enjoy concerts. At the Barenaked ladies gig I looked around as a lot for people were singing along with almost every song, from the oldest song to the newest. As I did this I wondered about the whole idea of going to something and wanting to participate. Wanting to partake in something bigger. (there are many better people to read on the links between big concerts/nightclubs and religious experiences than myself, thankfully.)

While thinking about this I wondered about how we learn to cross the road, it is through the small boring repetition of crossing roads everyday with our parents that we learn this skill and it comes naturally. (a practice I am currently going through with my children.) In the context of the concert it is the small daily practices of listening to the CD, nodding, humming, and singing along, which makes these songs something we own and live with. It is a practice of nurturing and embodying what we believe, until when faced with the question what would you do if you had a million dollars?, you answer without missing a beat, “If I had a million dollars, I’d by you a green dress, but not a green dress that’s cruel.” or finish an answer with “…and Hello to Jason Issacs” or whatever embodiment of the daily practice is appropriate.

I wonder if by placing a church service at the centre of the community of faith and then making its rhythm as regular as weekly, we have given permission for the abdication of the personal daily disciplines. The daily practices of bible reading, praying. The Barenaked Ladies come to Glasgow once every 1-2 years and I wonder if part of what makes the yearly concerts good less to do with the skill of the band and are the personal time and discipline put into learning, retaining and embedding the knowledge of in this case the songs. (Again, I don’t want to get caught up in a discussion of are festivals like spring harvest, autumn soul or creation good for the local church better minds have and will discuss this.)

Does church do its congregation a disservice by meeting on a weekly basis? How would the church change if we only met once a quarter? I think i already know that’s not the answer, but I wonder if this is the cause of an issue that needs some thought. I wonder if the regularity of church services have devalued the church event itself. Or I wonder if a weekly church service isn’t enough to get to the level of the boring regular repetition, as within the crossing the road example. I am not sure.

(PS I am pretty sure that Bigger and Better minds than Mine have already tackled this and will have written great books on this issue but that I just haven’t found/read them yet…)

Hi, My Name is scott. Today I want to talk about…

Last night, I was getting ready for bed when I had something approximating an epiphany. It was a thought that popped into my head and made sense of something I had been thinking about

“what does the Scottish Government policy document say about this?”

I admit that not often have the words epiphany, Scottish Government and Policy document met in a sentence but there you go. I cannot control my epiphanies.

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This thought was important as I am taking part in a couple of small gatherings over the next few weeks. On Wednesday and Thursday I am at the inaugural IASYM Celtic Colloquium gathering in Belfast. This is a gathering of churchy youth work type people to discuss practice etc. The aim is to gather those who are about masters level or thinking doing a masters and have a mix of full papers, outline papers, and subject explorations for those thinking of starting something. I am first on the programme. That is right “headlining” the first morning. Looking the world of socio-economics, Christin Faith Based youth work (anything to push up the word count(!)) and Play. It has been interesting how much this new study has come out of my masters study when I have started preparing for this thing. Anyway two days in Belfast, it should be fun.

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Secondly on saturday the 12th of September I am doing something on at the Youth Work Summit Nano Scotland. Which is a snappy title kinda. I will be talking about volunteering and my own experience trying to put into conversation how my thoughts and feeling about volunteering changed from being a volunteer – to being a part time worker – to being a full time worker – to being a part time worker – to being a volunteer again. I have hit upon some great stats on church volunteering.
“In England and Wales, 31% of the population contribute 87% of the total hours volunteered, and a more concentrated 7.6% of the population provide 49% of hours volunteered (Mohan, 2011). This “civic core” is a generally middle-aged, well-educated, religious, owner- occupying section of the British middle class, who dominate civic participation.”
Jings 50% of all volunteering in England and Wales is done by 8% of the population. Thats bonkers.
I also am planning to introduce the world premier of “the curve of awesomeness and goodness” which is a lovely thing to see and work with. Anyway tickets still available from he website above if you do christian based youth work type stuff and fancy being at what looks like it could be a fun day.

N.B. No word on which headlining slot I will be getting. I am hoping for the prestigious post lunch slot (Snoozetime) or the equally prestigious pre lunch time (hurryuplunchissoontime) but don’t think i have the weight to carry off either of those slots so who knows.

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What are you listening too?

 

This is a brief half-year report on some of the new music I Have heard and enjoyed over the last 6 months (January – July). some are famous, some are not, some you have heard of, some you will  not. anyway it is interesting to try to gather them together for your information and delight. If you wish you can let me know what you have been listening to in the comments section.

a0584391936_16Against Illusions and Reality by Parks, Squares and Alleys – File under Dreampop.

homepage_large.8a8c51f9All Are Saved by Fred Thomas  – File under Indie Rock.

UnknownA Bad Wind Blows in my Heart by Bill Ryder Jones – File under Indie Folk.

Broken-Temples-Album-CoverBroken Temples by Kevin Max – File under Pop.

AKR099-Cover-471x471Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens – File under Indie Folk.

tame-impala-currentsCurrents by Tame Impala – File under Rock.

a1422141892_16Eas by Iain Morrison – File under Folk.

12inch_recordjacketEscape From Evil by Lower Dens – File under Indie Rock.

packshotGirls In Peacetime Want to Dance by Belle & Sebastian – File Under Indie Pop.

71V2TVxKYcL._SX425_Goon by Tobias Jesso Jr – File under Indie Pop.

91HM55-T3xL._SX425_Growing Up is for Trees by I’m From Barcelona – File under Indie Pop.

51-ao7nX-qL._SX425_Lucid Dreaming by Say Lou Lou – File under Dreampop.

tumblr_inline_ndsm9uWHp91rr1q7fNatalie Prass by Natalie Prass – file under Indie Pop.

a2440765326_10PlagueThe Eastern Sea – File under Rock.

6192238The Scene Between by The Go Team – File under Electronic.

41nZeLYQ7EL._SS280Short Movie by Laura Marling – File under Indie.

imageSleeping Operator by The Barr Brothers – File under Country.

courtney_barnett_sometimes_i_sit_front_2Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett – File under Rock.

a0804357521_16Stranger Kings by Stranger Kings – File under Dreampop.

medium.eVt0krDOwUlXl7qCsdavEwhDLmfcSUHUdBo6xL_5t38The Waterfall by My Morning Jacket – File under Rock.

TerribleBeautiful_a02d48f1-01be-43ad-8a18-14a4c405bf56_1024x1024What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World by The Decemberists – File under Indie Pop.

I am a graduate. #graduate

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So today I graduated. This is the third time it has been considered academically that I have done enough to be returned to society as someone who can do something vaguely useful. (Does that make it a habit yet?) I didn’t go to the ceremony, took the car to the garage instead. 

Many congratulations to those who also graduated today. I hope all your wildest dreams come true. 

What is Youth work? (in the style of “since you asked”)

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by Dave Walker of cartoon church.com
What is youth work?

What is youth work? That is easy, right? It is about working with young people.
Well you would think it is as easy as doing what it says on the tin, you work with young people. The problem with this viewpoint is a lot of people work with young people and if all youth work is can be defined ultimatley by age group of the people we work with it gets silly fast. The bus driver driving a school bus is a youth worker, for example, and frankly that get tiresome. So those who work as youth workers had a think and tried to work out how to explain it better.

But defining by age is so simple and simple is good.
Simple can be good, but often it is not the elegant solution. Look at a teacher (if one is in the room, if not imagine one), a teacher is not defined by the age group they work with, teachers are defined by a purpose, a recognisable nature and a set of practices which they carry out to a certain skill level. The age group is the context within which they practice.

So it is defined by what you do and the skill in doing it?
Yeah thats the idea. The Scottish Government set up an agency called YouthLink Scotland to over see youth work and its development and its 2005 leaflet entitled the Purpose and Nature of youth work is definitive for youth work in scotland. It says the Purpose of youth work is
“• Build self-esteem and self-confidence.
• Develop the ability to manage personal and social relationships.
• Create learning and develop new skills.
• Encourage positive group atmospheres.
• Build the capacity of young people to consider risk, make reasoned decisions and take control.
• Develop a ‘world view’ which widens horizons and invites social commitment.” (Statement on the nature and purpose of youth work, Youth Link Scotland, 2005, p2)

ok that sounds admirable what about the nature.
Hold your horses, Youth Link first throws in a nod to the age question and say youth workers should be doing this with 11-25 year olds exclusively, with a particular emphasis on 11-18year olds. Then they get to the nature of youth work which has three features, young people choose to participate, the youth work must build from where young people are, and it must recognise the young person and the youth work are partners in a learning process. (Statement on the nature and purpose of youth work, Youth Link Scotland, 2005, p2)

Learning process?
Yip. youth work is educative process. not to be mistaken with formal education and learning about geography or maths or stuff. Its about learning life “[within an analysis of youth work]… learning from being part of group life remained a key element … each of these traditions encouraged us to focus on learning through conversation, experience and relationship.” (Youth Work Practice. eds Jeffs and Smith, 2010, p2)

That seems a bit vague?
Youth work is a bit ambiguous, That is why I like it. Jeffs and Smith point to the benefits of youth work being, Privision of Sanctuary, Enjoyable activity for the young people, Personal and Social Development, Relationship and community and appreciation. (Jeffs and Smith, 2010 p5-7) concluding – “The benefits associated with youth work in civil society raise serious questions around the direction of many current policy preoccupations.” (Jeffs and Smith, 2010, p7). The problem is that the people who pay for youth work on the other hand dislike this ambiguity. Not unreasonably, they want results, tangible benefits from the money they are pouring in, (although I am not sure how realistic current models of assessment are when the questions being asked is about the the reality of working with people). The Scottish Government & Youthlinks first big youth work publication was Step It Up in 2003, a framework for working out what youth work is and assessing it. Step it Up introduced the term effective youth work on a policy level and pointed scottish youth work on a path to the established professional status for youth workers.

Effective Youth work?
“Effective Youth work is both developmental and creative. It can and does lead to the development and growth of social and emotional competence. The central purposes of youth work outlined above, when linked to significant indicators of social and emotional competence, can be used by young people and youth workers to demonstrate personal and group development.” (Step It Up , Strathclyde University and the Princes Trust, 2003, p12-13) Effective youth work has been at the heard of Youth Link Scotland existence, pushing youth work to become more demonstrably valuable in the eyes of funders and political overlords.

Demonstrable emotional competences? is that something you can demonstrate?
The aim isn’t to say you will always in prescribed manner or deal with things an emotionally competently. It is to say you can act in those ways and you know that way is good. That’s what our society is based upon, people acting toward a notion of wha is good. This is a central development of youth work practice and has led to the latest youth work policy document of the Scottish Executive (Our Ambitions for Improving the Life Chances of Young People in Scotland, National Youth Work Strategy 2014-2019, the Scottish Government, 2014) pushing youth work and formal education together. Continuing the effective professional move of youth work from a broader welfare under social work to being part of education.

So youth workers are like teachers.
Both are educators, one is more formal the other informal. one is dealing with skills such as maths and english, the other with skills around community and personal emotional competences. In order to deal with this the Community Learning and Development standards group have developed a professional standard for those involved with youth work, (A code of ethics for Community Learning and Development, Sercombe &Taylor, 2010). The aim is that in conversations between formal education and youth work, both can be viewed as on a level playing field with each other. Youth work becomes a profession with a basis in a ethical position. Professional workers are recognised by the CLD standards body and by the government, this could give Youth Workers and Teachers equality and a professional respect for each other.

Ok, so if that is youth work, how does the work you do in churches fit in?
That is an astute question, lets deal with that next.

Twitter, Tr0lls and Hobbes.

Twitter has been in the news recently. The news reports speak of Tr0lls, people who deliberately use the service to shout abuse, issue threats, and insult other users. This morning, Michelle Mone, has been on TV talking to both ITV and BBC about her experience on Twitter. Click here for a report.

Within youth work this concern has been tackled by Young Scot. This is important as young people are seen as early adopters of new technology through their digitally native upbringing, conversely young people are regarded as a vulnerable group within society, and as such need to be treated as digitally naive.

calvin-hobbes-impersonates-dad

Hobbes, like Machiavelli, had a low view of human beings. We are all basically selfish, driven by fear of death and the hope of personal gain, he believed. All of us seek power over others, whether we realize this or not.
Warburton, A Little History of Philosophy.

Hobbes main idea is that the only thing that keeps our selfish side from coming out is the rule of law the threat of punishment, you could call it society. Hobbes life without these rules or threat of punishment, life outside society would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. In order to keep society together you need a strong leader, or a strong government. you also need people to buy into a social contract of not being selfish. giving up the dangerous side of being or the safety of society.

When you look at Twitter and it use by tr0lls it does look much like Hobbes analysed. It lacks any policing and any threat of punishment. Is that a bad thing?
logo_twitterpolice
Yes.
because people are digitally naive. I consider that people are generally good, and a few bad apples spoilt it all for us. I say this from an awareness I am white, I am male, I live in the country, with a comparatively affluent lifestyle. I don’t see the shit of life. I don’t life in the nasty underbelly of life. I don’t see my neighbourhood being oppressed. I don’t have gangs on every corner of my streets. My neighbours do not go hungry on a regular basis. Life is good, comfortable. The practice of tr0lling brings a piece of nastiness, a glimpse of the underside of life into my path. It makes me more conscious that oppression is real. People have nasty experiences everyday and I may unthinkingly contribute to that. Without speaking about sexism, racism, the outrage of need for food banks within Scotland, people living in substandard housing. then I would by my silence be complicit with this oppression. I would be giving Tacit approval to this state of affairs.

I have once been in the situation where I caused great concern to someone by a comment I made on twitter. It was meant as a sarcastic remark but caused remarkable pain to someone else. I apologised immediately. I asked to apologise in person but was not told who it was I offended. I apologised publically using twitter, and since then have never made a comment like that again, (hopefully). It bothers me I made that comment and secondly I didn’t get to apologise in person. What moderated my usage was someone telling me I had crossed a line.

So the lack of policing is a good thing?

No.
I can only imagine how horrible it is to have people attack you for being who you are. I can only imagine how horribly it is to have people deliberately threaten you verbally, threaten you physically, and threaten your family and friends. Just because you can delete your account or block abusive people does not mean that you are safe or that people should be allowed to say whatever they like on the internet.

What does twitter needs is a society to actively moderate itself. A community to engage with it and speak up when things arent right. A community willing to engage and say, that over the line, to speak and say that’s not right.

A New Langauge for Moral Failures in relation to marrage

rory-and-wendy-alecSo in christian TV news, one of the founders of the God channel has stepped down from the channel, after having a moral failure in relation to his marrage. This is sad for everyone involved in this marriage, and partly because they are famous in a manner, privacy is not available to them.

The languages of the statement is puzzling though. I am a bit obsessed by the language of “moral failure”. At best it is ambiguously accurate, at worst it is confusing. Pete Ward in his book “growing up evangelical” argues that evangelical christianity is too reflective in its being of teenage work. As such the evangelical church has a teenage outlook on things. I wonder if the whole of the Church generally suffers from this attitude when it comes to sex and sexual activity? Let me be clear, going down the route of Mark Driscol (joking about oral sex during morning services) is not a model I think should be generally adopted. Or even adopted ever, I dont think that does anyone any favours.

So in order to rescue sex for the church I am suggesting we spend sometime thinking of a new language to describe things. I am not seeking to describe different sex acts rather wondering about a new lanuague to discribe sex well.

A New Langauge for Moral Failures in relation to marrage

Knew – And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, (genesis 4v1 KJV)
– I am stepping down due to Knowing another woman.
Went In Unto – And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. (‭Genesis‬ ‭30‬:‭4-5‬ KJV)
– I am stepping down due to having went in unto another woman.
Uncovered his feet – Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do. (ruth 3v3)
– I am stepping down due to uncovering the feet of another woman.

Coitus – Dr Sheldon Cooper
– I am stepping down due to coitus with another woman
Sexual Relations – Bill Clinton famously didnt have this with Miss Lewinsky.
– I am stepping down due to having sexual relations with another woman.

or we could all grow up and just call it sex?

Computer games as inspirtion for books / movies?

the trip to the movies revealed a small thought about the usage of computer games to books and films.
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Boxtrolls movie, is based on a story “Here be Monsters” by Alan Snow published in 2005. The first adventure of Snake was being published in the Metal Gear Solid series of games published in 1998. The Game was designed in sneaking and famously used a mechanic of hiding in cardboard box as you sneak around the game’s world. Attracting as little attention to yourself as possible. This mechanic of hiding in a cardboard box when you were in danger is perfectly recreated by the Boxtrolls movie.

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Exclusive... Daniel Radcliffe Films "Horns"
the second thought is around the new film with Daniel Radcliffe called “Horns”. Its based on a book by Joe Hill from 2010. A girl dies and the next day her boyfriend wakes up and has grown horns. This is reminiscent of the story of ICO, where the leace character a boy called ICO is locked in a castle, as he has grown wings, and has to act to protect Yorda, his female accomplice in the dark lonely castle. Having not seen the film or read the book I don’t know how close or otherwise the finished product will be.

I find it interesting that mechanics which have been developed by computer games, such as Hiding in a cardboard box, or the striking visuals image of the Horned boy is explored by film, would then be reimagined within books, and then as movies. Rather than trying to take a computer game and make a film of the game with notably disappointing consequences.

#politics – one of the classic blunders … never get involved in a land war in Asia

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You only think I guessed wrong! That’s what’s so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line”! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…

Vinzzini, The Princess Bride.

Today (Thursday) marks the1987 American release of The Princess Bride into cinemas. Possibly the finest film ever. Also with some very prudent advice for our political overlords – never get involved in a land war in Asia. It’s the best known of the classic blunders.

Tomorrow the UK Government decides if the UK Air Force should bomb (ISIS, ISIL or IS) positions in Iraq and Syria. (It’s a land war in Asia).Last year the UK Govenrment plan to aid the syrian rebels was defeated by MP’s. This year the word is bombing in Iraq is ok, but in syria will probably not get through.

It is hard to comprehend the situation of lands whos names are exotic and who are distant to the reality of my life. There is no doubt the ISIS fighters are being ruthless. There is no doubt that this is having a direct impact on people who live in this region and those who work in this area. Life there is brutal, hard, and beyond my frame of reference.

The good guys and the bad guys in this situation are not clear, particularly in the case of Syria where ISIS is bad and the regime of Assad is just as bad. I don’t know how to respond well.

My starting point is that violence is wrong. Killing people to take what you want is wrong. Very very wrong, KIlling people because they have killed people to get what they want is also wrong. Killing people is just wrong.

Yet every year we spend millions of punds at a government level on things to kill people, on the chance that they may want to kill us and take our stuff. In 2014 I don’t want to be bombing other countries in the name of defence. I don’t want to kill anyone in the name of national security. I do not believe the only language these people understand is violence. I don’t believe thats true of any human being. (Your wrong on this one, Mr President.)

The wee boy this morning watched the news report on this at breakfast and commented.
“I don’t blame them for wanting to destroy Britain”
“Why?”
“It’s only fair, we’ve been bombing them for ages.”

And thats the problem, History. That’s what’s leads me to have doubts that the UK and America are the people to sort this out. How much of this killing is due to the way the UK and USA left things after their last attempt to protect our national interests. Historically we have a really bad record on this stuff, yet we continue to follow the same script, adopt the same behviours and the results are the same.

But if we don’t act, men women and children will die. We can say we are in a blunder. That we fell into a classic mistake. But how do we get out of it well. Can we allow the world the sort itself out and hope people won’t do bad things to others or is. What are we willing to sacrifice for change. Is one childs life in the top of Iraq worth the price of peace tomorrow?

That is a big question which I don’t have an answer too.

Sometimes I think being a politician is fun and you have a great ability to change things and make things better.

Sometimes I look at the decisions politicians have to make and thank God I don’t have to be the one choosing which is the least bad option.

#IndyRef – Politics as a state of flow

flow-theory-what-makes-a-good-game-59kq9v1
The recent #indyref in Scotland has been breathtaking. The volume of sources, thoughts, perspectives, interviews and comments has been tremendous. This ongoing noise has led anyone trying to keep up struggling.

As someone who keeps a distance on such things, it was amazing to see. This amazement has carried on in the day after the referendum. But with the political argument moving now to London and Westminster village again Scottish voices appear to be sidelined as a form of English devolution becomes the big storyline. Leaving some in Scotland worried that after the “no” vote Scotland has lost its place on the London political agenda.

I was reading this morning on the concept of flow by Csikszentmihalyi. (From here on in “the Russian dude”). The Russian dude studied flow from the 1960’s through to the 1970’s publishing his book on it 1976 and more since.
He defined flow as being associated with 9 characteristics:-

A balance between challenges and skills;
Clear goals;
Immediate feedback;
Intense concentration;
Merging of action and awareness;
Loss of self-consciousness;
Time distortion; and
Experiencing the activity as intrinsically rewarding.

For the Russian dude the first three are the conditions of the flow state, (challenge-skills balance, clear goals, immediate feedback) the remainder are the characteristics of a flow state.

The more I think about the firehose* of the political focus upon the independence referendum, the more I consider it induces a state of flow in those associated with it. The links between the conditions of Flow states and the IndyRef are legion, the balance between challenges and skills, the challenge of convincing people and having the skill to pull it off well. Clear goals, the yes no disguising slightly the clear goal of maintaining/gaining power. And the immediate feedback of daily polls, a different one in each paper, and even minute by minute tracking of TV debates.

Yet the characteristics of Flow could be recognised in the performance of the politicians. Intense concentration, the hours with PR people to ensure you blandly answer the question you want to answer while subtly ignoring the one you are asked. The merging of action and activity, the loss of self-consciousness, a sense of control, time distortion and experiencing the activity as intrinsically rewarding, were demonstrably evident.
electric blue brain in hands
The question has to asked is a high level political existence actually a deep flow experience or is it a serious of what the Russian guy calls “almost imperceptible microflow events”. My guess is that normal politics are the microflow events, but the big things like going to war, a referendum event, are the pure deep flow. That’s what makes politics appealing, and power and responsibility desirable.

The question s how much of what goes on within this flow state is actually conscious action, and how much is just flowing. How much awareness is presented for what is happening out with the flow event, and how that is perceived by the public and those out with the flow state. If there is a difference, it provokes 2 questions.

1 – should the politicians be allowed to get to a flow state by their acolytes?
2 – if they achieve deep flow, should the politician be held to promises or pledges made in that space.

On the first one. no. I think flow can be a very helpful state where the innate person, their political phronesis all come to play together.

Considering the second one. Is more marginal. we recognise that as a society, things said in the head of the moment, can be explained by such. Buying things on the internet have special protection so it can be rejected at a later date. The agreement of Statement have an Eschatological element to them. For the politician in a flow state I think any promise, pledge or guarantee is deserving of a 7 day cooling off period, from the electorates side. How many no voters if you had to retake the vote today, would still vote no based on the reaction tot he devolution discussion which has been portrayed by westminster in the last couple of days?

Moving on requires trust and integrity, leadership and responsibility, does decisions made in flow give us that? It strikes me that flow is something which can be used well. it can help a political practitioner to say the right thing at the right time, but i have many doubts about wether the political animal one out of the flow state can always deliver the promises they made. whether the tune they make in one specific location at a specific time (Edinburgh, in a Scottish conversation) can be made real in another space, (London, in a UK conversation). Flow may allow you to operate at very high level but it also has the ability to bite you on the bum.

(*Firehose is the term applied to the whole unedited output of public twitter, delivered in real-time. very few people have this access and very few companies have the ability to process this amount of information. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/16/twitter-buys-gnip-firehose-analytics-apple-topsy)